Protests and demonstrations a key concern for extractive companies

Protests and demonstrations pose a serious security threat to the oil and gas industry as well as mining sector in Myanmar, a recent poll among industry players showed.

Yangon-based Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) organised workshops aiming to raise awareness of the relevance of Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPSHR) for Myanmar’s extractive companies, and identify the most serious security issues for the industries.

The workshops were held in the capital city and Yangon in late November, attended by stakeholders from public and private sectors.

At the VPSHR’s inaugural meeting for the Myanmar’s working group in May, co-chaired by the UK Embassy and TOTAL, a scoping report on VPSHR implementation, proposed by MCRB, International Alert, an NGO, and PeaceNexus, Swiss-based peacebuilding foundation, was approved.

The recent meetings were co-chaired by TOTAL’s general manager Romaric Roignan and Douglas Barnes from the UK Department for International Trade in Yangon. European companies, including several UK-listed firms, are investing in Myanmar’s extractives industry, such as Shell and Ophir.

The VPSHR are a series of principles established in 2000 as a multi-stakeholder initiative involving a number of governments, companies and NGOs, aimed to guide companies in the extractives industries to provide security for their operations in a manner that respects human rights.

Vicky Bowman, director of MCRB, highlighted the VPSHR’s relevance to Myanmar’s mining sector, including large projects such as Letpadaungtaung copper mine, as well as providing a framework for considering the challenge of artisanal mining in the gold and gemstones sector.

Ms Bowman’s presentation explained how the VPSHR was relevant to Myanmar’s regulatory environment for investment, including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Management Plan. She emphasised the leading role of companies in implementing the VPSHR, and that its principles could be rolled out successfully in Myanmar without any requirement for the Myanmar government to “join” the initiative.

Most serious security issues for the oil and gas sector in Myanmar were identified by the Nay Pyi Taw attendees as interaction with boats (fishing, refugees) (47 percent) and impact on operations of Myanmar security authorities (27pc).

Yangon participants also identified interaction with boats (fishing, refugees) as most serious (60pc) with protests and demonstrations ranking second (27pc), as a reflection of a protest in Rakhine about natural resources control.

The most serious security issues for Myanmar’s mining sector was identified both in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw as protests and demonstrations – coming top by a significant margin – following by impact on operations of Myanmar security authorities, and extortion by armed groups and militia. The Nay Pyi Taw workshop identified trespass as important, whereas Yangon identified artisanal mining.

Participants found near identical scores for VPSHR relevancy in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw where it is either relevant for any large investment in Myanmar that has security risks to manage (57pc); or relevant for all oil/ gas and mining companies (33pc).

The major concern of Yangon participants were curriculum and training of public security on VPSHR (48pc). Nay Pyi Taw also supported for inclusion of VPSHR-related requirements in licences and contracts issued by government (29pc).

Helping private security companies to meet VPSHR requirements (10pc) and reform of licensing and oversight of private security companies (10pc) were also identified.

The committee will meet again next month. The two workshops were funded by Woodside Myanmar.

Presentations conducted by security experts from TOTAL Woodside, CHEVRON, Shell and PanAust, all global VPSHR members with a Myanmar presence, could be found on MCRB’s website.


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